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After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 5 September 2017

Double the agent:- Codenames Duet

GameCodenames Duet

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

DesignerVlaada Cvatil & Scot Eaton

Codenames Duet is a 2 player card game in which you play as members of a spy agency attempting to contact their sleeper agents, while avoiding assassins sent to hunt them down. Codenames Duet plays much like the original Codenames, but instead of 2 groups competing against each other you have 2 players who must work as a team to find all the agents. To make things more complicated there are 3 assassins on the board and you’ll be working to a strict time limit of guesses.

As in the original game you are presented with 25 words of which you have to guess from. Each player has a private grid that dictates which of the words are agents that have to be guessed, which of the words are clueless bystanders, and which are assassins who kill you should you alert them to your presence. Each turn you have to give your partner a 2-part clue, one word and one number. The word should be a link between words on the grid that are agents, while the number is the number of words that need to be guessed. Your partner then guesses as many words as they like 1 by 1, if they guess an agent you cover the word with a  green agent card and may continue guessing, if it’s an assassin then the game ends as a loss. At any time they can stop guessing and take one of the green checkmark tokens, alternatively if they guess a bystander then their turn ends immediately and they place a bystander token on it. These tokens are double sided with each other and act as an in game timer, with each passing turn you’ll be taking one token or the other.

Codenames Duet set up ready to play, all the cards are double sided so you can simply flip them over to set up for a second game!

Codenames Duet does a great job of replicating the gameplay of the original for two players, and is a far superior option than the two player mode in the original. However it can be a bit more stilted in terms of flow. As both players are taking turns giving clues and guessing them there is no down time for the clue giver to think. This in turn seems to result in longer pauses as the clue giver desperately tries to link their words together avoiding three assassins. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination, but the included words also seem to link together less well, resulting in less impressive turns and even longer thinking time. Of course you can freely swap over or mix the words with other Codenames games to add an insane level of variability in your 25 word grid.

The included campaign map giving you a series of challenges of increasing difficulty

There is an included campaign map, where you travel around the globe activating your spy network. This is a nice idea and I wish they had done more with it. In practice each mission simply varies the number and type of counters you use to form the timer. This does add more challenge and certainly adds some replayability. But I would have liked to see some countries using some extra rules, perhaps restricting the types of words you can use for clues or similar.

Codenames Duet is a very interesting translation of a party game, however I feel it loses the essence of the original Codenames. There’s joy to be had in watching your team debate amongst themselves until they come to agreement on which word to guess, sometimes leading each other on the most bizarre tangents. That simply can’t be recreated in a 2 player game.  Instead you have a more serious game with highest stakes and this is by no means a bad thing. Codenames Duet does give the essential Codenames experience for 2 players and while I don’t think it’s as good a game as the original, it is still a good game.


Codenames Duet was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is available for an RRP of £16.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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